It appears that St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke is pulling out all the stops in an effort to terrify the city of St. Louis into believing it is about to lose its NFL team. Not only has he purchased land suitable for an NFL stadium in L.A., he's also refusing to speak to St. Louis city leaders who are trying to negotiate a stadium financing deal to keep the Rams in town.
The Rams are currently in year 20 of their 30-year stadium lease in St. Louis, but they can take their lease to a year-to-year basis if Kroenke can't come to terms with the city for funding various "stadium improvements." Right now, Kroenke is trying to use that clause to squeeze another $575 million in public money out of the city, and the city is not really down with that plan. So, first came the plot of land in L.A.—Gee, this nice lil' spot in L.A. sure would make a great football stadium, wouldn't it, Mr. Mayor?—and now come the cold-shoulder negotiating tactics.
But city leaders are hedging their bets, saying the plan now is to work directly with the NFL, not the Rams. The change in philosophy is due in part to the fact that Kroenke won't take calls from Mayor Francis Slay or other city leaders, said Maggie Crane, Slay's spokeswoman.
"He hasn't responded, he hasn't called back, he hasn't done anything," Crane said of Kroenke.
"After a while, you sort of get the hint," said Jeff Rainford, the mayor's chief of staff.
Messages left Wednesday at Kroenke's office were not returned. A Rams spokesman declined comment.
"The NFL can make money in St. Louis," Rainford said. "It may end up being the Rams with this owner, the Rams with a different owner, a different team with a different owner."
The real shame of L.A. not having a football team is not that its citizens don't have a team to root for, but that its NFL-ready market can constantly be dangled over the heads of cash-strapped towns like a guillotine. If St. Louis bends to Kroenke's will and lets him pillage hundreds of millions of dollars from the coffers because the city's political leaders are terrified of being the ones responsible for losing the team, this same shit is just going to happen again in Oakland, San Diego, or any other NFL city in which the owner is feeling aggrieved over how little money the public is willing to just give him.